Trying not to waste anything and lamenting the decline of a small market town
I hate wasting food but have a compulsion to stock the house with whatever visiting family and friends might fancy. I enjoy spontaneity but like to be prepared so Christmas was a time of checking dates on stuff in the fridge, agonising over whether to freeze meat products, which would make them unavailable, or risk getting too close to their use by date – and being vegetarian means I can’t just eat it myself to get rid of it. At least the wildlife benefited from posh quiche and pork pie – I took it out running with me and flung it down a hillside where there are no buildings around. Sadly, I no longer feed the birds in the garden for fear of attracting rats.
Being well-stocked and a fussy eater (vegetarian and not a dairy fan), I take my own lunch to work and have never liked the idea of buying a ready-made sandwich, nor would I buy a small plastic pot of washed, chopped up fruit (unless it was reduced from £1.74 to 14p). Of course, very many people do buy ready-made sandwiches every day, so it must be a normal thing to do. Whilst I do the main weekly shop at a supermarket, I do like to support small businesses when out and about at the weekend.
At least once a year I visit the lovely little market town that was the home of my ancestors. It’s a nice day out and an opportunity to connect with souls and say a spiritual ‘hello’ to grandparents and great grandparents, tidy the graves and leave some flowers. Last summer, since my partner was coming along, I suggested we had a pub lunch rather than taking a picnic. He was more in favour of a snack and a mug of tea in a café, which suited me fine.
We weeded the graves whilst a very tame robin perched on one of the grave stones watching, and I wondered if this was an indication of a relative making contact or simply a bird waiting for us to dig up some worms.
It was sad to see the churchyard gate had come off its hinges and the bench in the peaceful little clearing had collapsed. It was a warm sunny day but the little town felt run-down and subdued. Most of the shops were closed, which I thought seemed odd on a week day but I suppose if they don’t get the customers and the owner is not the shop keeper it might cost more per hour to keep the shop open than any profit made on sales.
The cafes were open but the one I had in mind at the top of the high street was very noisy, not over-crowded but there was a group of women projecting their voices as if on stage, their conversation punctuated with high-pitched peels of laughter. We moved on. The next one had no free tables and looked too cramped to safely wield cutlery – but the next looked ideal. The shop window revealed ovens and large display cabinets and just a few tables that were all vacant …
We went in but the staff didn’t look too impressed at having customers, although I’m sure we were smiling politely when we entered!
“We’re not a cafe but you can buy your food here and eat it on a table.”
“Thank you”, I said, unsure how that made it not a cafe.
“You have to get your tea or coffee from the machine over there … but she’s cleaning it at the moment.”
“Oh, that’s fine.” We both obligingly chose a can of pop from the fridge and I tried not to notice the price and not to think about the cans we had at home that would soon be out of date.
Then came the difficult bit. Julz glanced at the sandwiches and cold pasties and quickly settled for a flapjack. I had in mind something savoury, like a jacket potato, but couldn’t see any and the the pasties were all meat and the only non-meat sandwich had egg in it, which I can’t stand (already told you I’m fussy). I was taking too long to choose and it was getting awkward with them watching me. I was getting anxious and starting not to fancy anything at all when I spotted a slice of cheese and tomato pizza.
She followed my gaze. “That’s pizza but it’s not cooked and we switched off the ovens at one o’clock because we close at three.” (It was ten past one).
“Not to worry, I’ll go for a cake.”
She thrust a tray of cream cakes at me. “Fresh cream, these are.” Yes, of course they would want to get rid of them …
“Urm, sorry, I’m more of a fruit cake fan.” Then I saw the answer – a large fruit cake wrapped in cellophane – but it was the sort you would cut a slice off rather than eat the whole thing in one go. I put it on the counter with relief. I was feeling a bit flushed and peculiar by now, but didn’t like the idea of just breaking a lump off the cake. “I don’t suppose you’ve got a little plastic knife I could have to cut a piece off?”
Both ladies started to hunt for one.
“… or may you could just cut a slice off with one of your knives?” but they were on a mission to find a plastic knife and bless them they found one. Phew! We perched on a wall down the road rather than using their tables.
Looking back, it’s a shame to think that if it weren’t for the family ties I might not be drawn back there again, and whilst I’m tempted to take my own stuff along next time, I will give one of the other pubs or cafes a try … but I’ll take that little plastic knife along, just in case 😉